Tag Archives: control

Defining ownership and control in a digital world

Used online, terms such as ownership and control have slightly more fluid connotations than their physical counterparts – but we can still define their context and meaning.

At digi.me, we unlock the power of personal data for users by enabling them to gather and collate information from multiple services, platforms and places in one single library that they own and control.

This library is the only place all this information exists together, allowing instant greater personal insight even before users begin to exchange or share slices of data, on their terms, for convenience, service or reward.

So our users own this data, this library, this collection – but does the data still exist in the original places it was found? Yes it does, but each individual now has a vastly more useful, insightful and comprehensive body of data than ever before, gathered together in a unique form, that they can access at will and exchange or share as wanted, thus controlling as well as owning it.

We’ve occasionally been asked how digi.me can really be returning data ownership to the individual if another copy, which they have no control over, exists, but this shows a limited understanding of the realities of the online world.

More importantly, it would imply ownership could only ever mean that just one copy of something existed, over which you had 100% control that could not be subverted – and this simply does not apply digitally in the same way it does physically.

Let’s give some examples. In the physical world, if I own a car it is mine completely (ignoring any financing), I control it completely, and it is clear and undeniable to others that this is the case.

So far so simple, yes? But even offline, things can be cloudier than they first appear, as simply having something tangible I can hold in my hand does not necessarily confer complete ownership or control.

If I am sent a bank statement, for example, then I own that copy of my financial data and what happens to it- but of course the bank still has all that same data too.

When we move online, it soon becomes clear that concepts of ownership and control have, by necessity and by evolution, become even more fluid.

So if I take a picture of something or someone, I own that image. It’s physically mine, stored on my camera and phone, and I can, crime or loss aside, control who sees it or accesses it.

But if I post it online, to Facebook or Twitter, for example, then things become more complicated. I still own the original photo, but lose control of what happens to the copy that I have shared, in terms of what people can say about it and what they do with it.

Yet my original ownership of the master document, if you will, remains unchanged even despite the presence of potentially multiple other versions.

Applying this principle to our app and the data it enables users to connect to it, it is clear that when you have your data in digi.me, then you own that data.

Other copies of the slices of data that make up the whole still exist, but you own your unique, extended and enhanced version – and where possible and where you are allowed by T&Cs, can seek to delete or, in the future, ask companies to forget these other versions, when the EU-wide General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws come in in 2018.

So what of the original copies of these many slices of data? What happens to them? Well, nothing is the answer. They remain where they were, being of limited or little use to both the individual who created them, or businesses hoping to gain insight into their users.

The bottom line is that our app, uniquely and appealingly, allows users to create and compile an increasingly all-compassing picture of the data from across their lives. One that will continue to evolve, develop and deepen the more they add to it, and one which they will always own and control.

World’s biggest tech companies failing users on data privacy

Some of the world’s top tech companies are failing users over privacy, according to the most comprehensive research published on the subject.

Firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, AT&T, Orange France and Vodafone were surveyed by an organisation called Ranking Digital Rights using 31 measures that focused on corporate disclosure of policies and practices that affect users’ freedom of expression and privacy.

After examining their user agreements, each was given a percentage grade, with no companies scoring over 65 per cent, and only six scoring 50 per cent. Seven companies – nearly half – only scored 22 per cent.

The report’s key findings were:

  • Disclosure  about  collection,  use,  sharing,  and  retention  of  user  information  is  poor.  Even  companies  that  make efforts  to  publish  such  information  still  fail  to  communicate  clearly  with  users  about  what  is  collected  about  them, with  whom  it  is  shared,  under  what  circumstances,  and  how  long  the  information  is  kept.
  • Disclosure  about  private  and  self-regulatory  processes  is  minimal  and  ambiguous  at  best,  and  often  non-existent.  Few  companies  disclose  data  about  private  third-party  requests  to  remove  or  restrict  content or  to  share  user  information – even  when  those  requests  come  under  circumstances  such  as  a  court  order  or subpoena.
  • In  some  instances,  current  laws  and  regulations make  it  more  difficult  for  companies  to  respect  freedom  of  expression  and  privacy.

“When  we  put  the  rankings  in  perspective,  it’s  clear  there  are  no  winners,”  said  Rebecca  MacKinnon,  director  of Ranking  Digital  Rights.  “Our  hope  is  that  the  Index  will  lead  to  greater  corporate  transparency,  which  can  empower users  to  make  more  informed  decisions  about  how  they  use  technology.”

With the report’s compiler highlighting that there no “winners”, it is clear that the losers are users creating and posting pictures and videos to platforms that are unclear at best about what they can actually do with them.

There was also wide differences in transparency within companies, with Facebook (owner of both Instagram and Whatsapp) found to make better disclosures about its flagship platform and the picture-sharing app than at Whatsapp, which did not always even publish privacy agreements in the right language.

Overall,  Google  ranked  highest  among the eight Internet  companies,  while  the  UK-based  Vodafone  ranked  highest among  telecommunications  companies. The Russian Mail.ru email service ranked the worst with 13 per cent.

The survey also found very low levels of web-based companies that allowed encryption of private content and control access, with the average score across the eight just six per cent.

10 ways digi.me gives you back control of your data

News of data breaches and leaks has been everywhere recently, particularly in the wake of the Ashley Madison hack.

And yet, as our popular blog on the apps that are spying on your life proved, we are giving more and more about ourselves away without questioning it, often in the mistaken belief it is the only way we can access free services.

Two big (often unspoken) truths are that many apps ask for many more permissions than they need as a default, and also that free does not have to mean giving up the rights to the data that makes up you.

Here at digi.me, we like to think in terms of the internet of me – you, at the centre of your world, fully in control of what data about you is shared and with whom. Clearly, with so much about each of us already in the wild, that full dream remains a work in progress, but our app gives you back control of your data for you to choose and use as you wish. How? Well, here are just some of the ways:

  1. By backing-up your social network content. You can use digi.me to sync four accounts from the main social media platforms, meaning you can delete your accounts if you choose in future and still have whatever you posted there, complete with the original likes and comments.
  2. Having all the data YOU posted, at YOUR fingertips – you can jump around the journal view or search across all platforms to find something you need without being constrained by search or any post visibility activated by the channels themselves.
  3. By us NEVER seeing any of your data, yet bringing it to you in a format that you can easily search and use.
  4. Run a small business and want to analyse when your posts get most interaction? Use our insight tool to find out what and when you should be posting, or download your follower data in a spreadsheet to investigate how it has grown or who has stopped following you.
  5. Feeling overwhelmed by the size of your networks? See who you have most interactions with on Facebook, for example, if you’re minded to create lists. Or see who is no longer friends with or following you if you want to cull them back.
  6. Use our flashback feature to see what you were doing on this day last year, the year before or five years ago – remember things you wanted to do, or anniveraries of things you did do that might otherwise be forgotten.
  7. Make a collection – your favourite pictures or interactions, stored together, and able to be saved and downloaded as a PDF, complete with the original comments.
  8. Compliance requirements for your business? Find anything you’ve ever said and reuse or record as necessary in a matter of moments.
  9. Organise your content into collections, grouping similar content or separating public and personal. All, of course, easy to find when you need it again for any reason.
  10. By having, at your fingertips, the complete story of you. What you said, what you did and who you did it with, even the ability to add thoughts, moments and pictures that were not (gasp!) documented on social media.

Sharing everything for free use is not good data privacy, is not the future and should not be how the world works. Join the online revolution, start taking your data power back and download digi.me for free today!

data privacy

Ashley Madison and Spotify: lessons about personal data privacy

It’s been an interesting week for observers and chroniclers of data issues, especially around privacy and what we can reasonably expect to happen to information we trust to the web and individual websites.

First there was the Ashley Madison leak, following an earlier hack, where millions of email addresses and account details of users, including sexual preferences and credit card information, were dumped online and made visible to anyone who had the time and inclination to go through them (and plenty did).

The extramarital affairs website offered a full delete service, where users could pay an extra fee to erase any trace of their usage, but this appears to have been all but useless. It was also interesting to see reports of how many company, government and military email addresses had been used, when plenty of services offer free and therefore anonymous accounts, implying a clear trust that because Ashley Madison said they were discreet, then this must be true.

Then, as the ramifications of this hack/leak were still becoming clear, Spotify hit its own technological bump in the road, when it was forced to withdraw a wide-ranging new privacy policy that expanded the data it collected from users and who this was shared with.

As the backlash intensified, with angry  users wondering why a music streaming service needed access to their phone contacts and photos, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek apologised for how it had been implemented, promising an “update” to the new policy and better communication in future (although interestingly not backtracking on the content of the policies themselves).

He also said that Spotify would not access or import people’s photos, contacts, sensor or GPS data without their permission.

So, what do both of these sagas tell us about the state of and awareness of data privacy online? I would argue quite a bit – and much of it positive.

While the fallout of the Ashley Madison data will have wide-ranging implications for anyone unmasked, the huge amount of coverage around the hack, subsquent leak and celebrity or well-known users will also undoubtedly raise the profile of the state of data privacy online. Namely, it has been made crystal clear that users need to take full responsibility for their own data and who they trust that with, as even sites claiming to be uber secure are just not able to ensure that is always true, particularly in the wake of a concerted hacking attack.

While not many sites are likely to suffer the fate of Ashley Madison, which was targeted by hackers The Impact Team who had an issue with the content of the site, every site holding personal data has the potential for a breach, and users often have no more than their word that all standard protocols have been followed before handing over what can be sensitive information. Indeed, companies themselves may believe they are protecting data adequately but just not have the technological know-how for that to be correct.

Equally, the Spotify backlash, while primarily among the internet-savvy Twitter usergroup, also shows a promising swell against overarching privacy policies, proving that users won’t accept absolutely anything in return for free use of a service, and increasingly have enough awareness to check what exactly they are signing up to.

Awareness of what we give away with many online transactions (excluding the likes of digi.me, which never sees your data) is the first step in making sure that anyone we hand our data to will treat it with respect, amoving on to holding those who don’t to public rebuke and account.

And thus the vastly greater awareness around data privacy issues following recent events can only be a good thing as more and more of our lives are lived online.

Latest digi.me update includes Flickr support

Digi.me has just got even better, with the launch of a new version that introduces some exciting updates while keeping all of the other brilliant features you already know and love.

The story of you can now be even more complete, as the new version (7.0.8 for those of you keeping track) now syncs with Flickr as well as all the existing platforms, which include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+.

There is also an option to add personal entries and photos direct to the library, without posting them on any social media platforms first, making digi.me the fullest library of your life and loves to date.

So what new features can you now add to your personal story?

  • Personal entries: add private posts and attach photos from your computer to your digi.me library. These can be organised into collections and are searchable

  • Flickr: Pull your Flickr photos, albums and favs into your digi.me library. As with other sources, you’ll get comments and favs counts on your photos too

  • Instagram: view, search and export your liked Instagram photos

  • Facebook Events: search, view and export events you’ve attended or been invited to

  • Facebook comments now have links attachments included

  • Backups: a simplified view of your backup entries. The journal was getting very busy, so we’ve tidied these summaries up. You’ll see a summary bar at the bottom of every day you synced your sources and can then click on this to see the breakdown.

And, of course, we’ve improved performance where we can, meaning the app now runs smoother than ever.

Any thoughts or questions about the new release? Feel free to get in touch either in the comments or over on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn – and don’t forget to vote for what you’d like to see added to the app next!

Finally, don’t forget that your data will always belong to you. That’s why it’s downloaded directly to your computer for your enjoyment and use – we never see it.

Personal Data Privacy in the News This Week

This week there has been a lot of discussion on TechCrunch and other sites as a result of this publication detailing how people don’t understand how their personal data is being used by social networks or search sites.

The essence of these articles puts into question whether your personal data is really being used with your permission or whether it is being stolen from you.  Personal information is being traded and used for personal or targeted advertising. Quite simply your preferences and information is the product that is being sold.  The big question about this approach is – Is it legal and ethical?

At the recent HyperCat IoT summit ARM’s Stephen Pattison stated that consumers should own their data.

“We must all accept consumers own their data and we need to make sure consumers have a good sense that they own their data.”

Along side this was a call for a Magna Carta on Data Privacy. What are your thoughts on this and do you feel we need to do more to protect and control our personal data?

Other interesting articles this week included:

What are your thoughts on these articles and how do you think personal information, use and ownership will change in the future?

 

How Tim Cook and the NY Times Opened Up the Privacy Debate

This week really has been an interesting one with two big stories hitting the news both relating to personal data and privacy.  The first was this story “Tim Cook blasts Silicon Valley companies for ‘gobbling up’ your personal data” and that was followed up with this article today in the New York Times “Mark Zuckerberg, Let Me Pay for Facebook“.

Both of these articles have one thing in common. Personal data, control of that data, use of the data and ownership of it.  Tim Cook rightly reminds us all that our personal data is incredibly valuable and important. Too important in fact to let other companies take ownership, control and use it.  Tim Cook is fighting for you to own your data, control and use it how you see fit. Some people have argued that we already do that and have made the trade off between personal privacy and service access with services like Facebook and Twitter however where do the boundaries sit?  At what point is a line crossed where we are no longer happy with this?

Taking this one step further New York Times writer Zeynep Tufekci believes that companies like Twitter and Facebook should actually be paying us to be on their platforms if they are selling our data or if we choose for them not to we pay to access the platform.  That actually doesn’t sound like an unreasonable compromise.  Times are changing and as we start to understand more how valuable and useful our data is to us and others we may choose to take more control over it.

What are your thoughts on the issues raised in these articles and where do you see the power and control of your personal data in the future?

We here at digi.me want to place that firmly in your hands in a way that you can easily understand and with the ability to revoke access and control of your data from any platform or service as you see fit.

Doing something different with your social media data

We all have social media data all over the place, be it on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.  We update our statuses, share pictures and videos or interesting links with friends, family and colleagues.  But after that what do we do with it?  Many of us just leave the content there and never really look back at it.

What Would You Like to Do With Your Data?

Digi.me puts you in control of your data and a few of the ideas that some of our users have come up with are truly inspiring.  Ideas that were suggested ranged from creating physical journals of conversations to picture montages from the last month.

Right now with digi.me you can take all your social media content and put it in a single place which you are in control of.  From here you can view it, analyse it and even look back over it to see what you were doing last week, month, year or even at a custom point or period in time.  You can export that data and use it in any way you choose to.

At the end of the day it is your data and you can do literally anything with it! All you need is a little imagination and some time to make it happen.

So why not give digi.me a try if you haven’t done already and do something different with your data.

If you already use digi.me let us know how you are using your data in fun and creative ways.  We love to inspire our users and show you what one another are doing with your data.

Sharing – change in control needed

Sharing today is generally seen as positive, but is also associated with negative aspects around privacy. If the negative aspects are not fixed sharing will slow and cease to the detriment to everyone, but there is a solution that will increase benefits to individuals, businesses and society as a whole IF there is a change in control – from business control to individual control.

Sharing is positive because it creates new services and functions that can help individuals, businesses and society as a whole. Sharing has grown through database marketing in 80s/90s; social media in the mid-00s; wider Software as a Service (SaaS) services since; and will grow exponentially more as individuals embrace the Internet of Things (IoT) – provided the “bad” can be controlled.

The negative is privacy; along with the increased sharing of information has always come concerns with regard to privacy. If we look back to the introduction of what might be termed database marketing in the 80s, increased privacy concerns led to the introduction of check boxes on forms stating whether businesses could use the information for other purposes. Today we have dramatically increased the personal data that is shared, both explicitly and hidden, whether that is social media, other web/SAAS services, monitoring of clicks and the like – and with that has come heightened privacy concerns.

The web related privacy concerns have grown ever more over the last 6 years, with greater numbers of people reducing/changing their social media use (or using more private channels), using Do Not Track, Ad blockers, ’going dark’ and other methods. The concept of the “creepy line” is well embedded now within society. Unconstrained and uncorrected, this will lead to a reduction in sharing, curtailing the positive benefits, and crippling new concepts such as IoT, which depends on greater levels of sharing.

This reduction in sharing leads to a discontinuity with dramatic effects. Not only will the Internet of Things be stillborn, but innovation in providing services based on personal data will stall across all domains (personal communications, commerce, health, etc). This will have a dramatically negative effect on businesses, but also individuals and society as a whole.

A BCG report “The value of our digital identity” states “The quantifiable benefit of personal data applications can reach €1 trillion annually to EU-27 by 2020  – with private and public organisations reaping about a third of the total, and consumers the rest” and then on goes on to say ““BUT much of this potential value will fail to materialise if consumers act to restrict the flow of personal data.”

How do we solve this problem and allow, even encourage, greater sharing? The current trajectory MUST be broken and restarted following a different approach in order for the full promise of personal data, inc. the IoT, to be realised

Change in control

There is a perception that there is so much data that it is currently infeasible for individuals to control it in a meaningful way with the information technologies available today, but our aim must be to provide that much needed control.

There are many suggestions for “personal data stores’ or “personal data lockers” and similar, hosted by third parties, to help individuals gain some control over their data. However, these all suffer from a number of issues: control is still via third party; the stores only hold a subset of data which means there is no overall control, no interoperability between different stores and no single point to access; holders of individual’s personal data (e.g. Facebook et al) often don’t allow access for retention by third parties. At best these systems are a band aid to the control issue and provide limited immediate benefits to individuals, severely limiting take up.

However, there is another approach – one in which the overall architecture is different, but at the same time familiar. By approaching the issue of privacy from an alternate architectural viewpoint, it is our contention that many of the problems are mitigated and contrary to there being an additional cost to privacy, there is in fact the reverse: an additional benefit to everyone involved with the new architecture, individuals, businesses and society alike – and at reduced cost.

The fundamental architectural difference is to return ownership and control of personal data to the individual, rather than the control being held exclusively by business

Personal control – the ultimate solution

Personal control is a simple change in perspective:

– Others don’t own your data – you do.

– Others shouldn’t hold your data – you should hold it yourself

By changing the view, this simple insight solves the privacy issue for individuals and the ability of businesses to access that data through user permissions.  This view, and the understanding that underpins it, has been developed by the company digi.me (formerly SocialSafe) in the UK, in a program of work that was initiated in 2009.

Having first downloaded the digi.me software to your device, the software works by retrieving your data directly to your digi.me library on your device – not touching anything else along the way, not the digi.me servers, not anything. A 100% private library of all your data, fused and normalised – social, financial, utilities, purchases, health, leisure and much more.

The digi.me user interface then allows the user to do more with their data, 100% privately, never losing it, and keeping access forever. It helps them be more engaged, have more fun, and to do more things, better – all locally and immediately, thereby giving that crucial incentive to start the process of regaining control of their data.

So digi.me is your librarian, but also extends to being your postman. The postal service is where digi.me controls a certificate system that allows other apps, web sites, etc. to ask the user for permission to see aspects of their data for a specific and permissioned purpose. If the permission is given by the user based on their perception of the offered value proposition, the digi.me app sends the permissioned portion of the ‘rich data’ to the requesting entity. This is summarised in the diagram below and in more detail in a video at http://digi.me/video

(Note: Whilst this architecture is different in that the individual owns and controls all their data, it was noted above that it was also familiar – that is because it is exactly what businesses do. Businesses hold all their own data – and then use local and remote apps to extract greater value. The individual is like a business with all the data available today – it should therefore not be a surprise that the solution is a familiar one!)

Conclusion

So by holding all their own data, individuals regain control and can do more with their data themselves and importantly can decide who they share that data with, what elements are shared, when, for what purpose – in this way the sharing economy can overcome the discontinuity posited above.

(Note: In my previous post I noted that we should define Privacy in the digital age as the “Ability to control your personal data, including who you share it with, when and for what purpose”. By owning your data you are then in control of your own privacy.)

Data Retention: Why is it such a challenging issue?

You may have read recently in the news about the Netherlands Data Protection law being scrapped as it breaches human rights legislation.  This isn’t the first time that a country has had challenges with data retention legislation or with the clash between data retention and human rights.

Data retention is a complex issue.  On the one hand data retention is a good thing as it ensures that historic data is captured forever and can be looked back over.  This means that historic data can be used for learning and building upon.  On the other hand that data could be used for all sorts of other uses.  It could be used for evidence in court cases, it could be used to fight crime and for all sorts of other purposes.

The use of data is the issue that adds the complexity to data retention. Collecting and retaining data for 1 year – 10 years isn’t a technical challenge or even a business challenge.  It is a moral one. Who should own that data, where should it be stored and who should have access to it?

Data Ownership

Who should own the data about you? Should it be you, your government, your service providers, your infrastructure providers or an independent third party? Each of these options have their benefits and drawbacks. On a personal level we all like to think that we own our data however on a broader spectrum we currently give our data to third parties such as our phone providers, our governments and even our social network providers.

It is our basic human right to decide who we provide our information to. What we don’t have control over is how long those providers have access to that information and how they then use that information about us. This is where the challenges get complicated.

Historically we have controlled our data but our providers have owned it. The trend now is that we are beginning to understand what that means and we no longer all want our data to be owned, managed and controlled by third parties to use as they please.

We will start to see data being seen as more important than ever and new innovative approaches to us owning and controlling our personal data and the access to that data.

Data Storage

When we provide our data to third parties such as our government or our service providers we have no idea where or how that data may be used. For that matter we don’t know where that data is being stored or shared unless someone contacts us to let us know.  This again is a challenge.

Where should our data be stored. Should it be under our control which countries and companies have access to our personal data?  How would that affect how our data was used and would it be in our best interest for it to be stored by us in a location of our choosing?

Data Access

We have already touched upon data access a little but when we are looking at personal data we can’t help but talk about the access to that data. When third parties control our data they have the ability to share that data with whomever they choose. (subject to regulation of course) When we talk about this in terms of governments each government in each country has their own regulations on what can and can’t be done with personal data. Just compare the UK and the US for example. The regulations in these areas are vastly different.

So how does this affect us?  On the simplest level data access is one of the key causes of cold callers to your phone.  However data access also provides the ability to personalize advertising and online experiences. It also provides that ability to purchase things like road tax online here in the UK. There are benefits to having your personal data available to third parties.  There are also down sides. If you don’t know how that data is being used or if it is used for malicious purposes it causes significant problems. Phishing scams online are just one example of this.

Access to our data is essential but who has access and how is key.  So when you read headlines around data retention and privacy it is worth understanding how and who has access to your data.

The future is changing constantly and it will be interesting to see where the regulations end up in Europe and the rest of the world.

How do you see data retention changing in the future and how important is historic data really?